The second episode last week was bang back on form and this week had me yelling swearwords at the TV. I love being shocked like that. It's very frustrating that so few people that I know talk about it, just as it is with Spooks.
I know that fandom/people/whatever have moved on to Twitter, Facebook and other places which do not encourage greater discussion, but I do miss the days when you'd get a collective mass update of reviews every time something aired. The only show which seems to provoke that sort of reaction now is Supernatural, and I am not sure I can textually render how unlikely I am to watch any more of that show (or indeed any show without women in major ongoing roles. Apparently I can forgive all manner of fail except lack of female protagonists)
Being Human remains my favourite show at the moment, if for no other reason than that it has twice shocked the crap out of me already. At first I thought tonight's revelation was a giant cheat, a twist pulled out of the writers' collective uber-arse, then I watched the repeat at midnight and, lo, I had just missed the pitter-patter of very tiny anvils.
The interplay of action and consequence continues to power this series in a very pleasing way. We might have cheered when Herrick was removed by George at the end of season one, but it has wrecked everything thereafter.
The battle against Herrick caused Annie to miss her date with the afterlife and now she has something malevolent pursuing her. Mitchell colluded in the removal of Herrick and now the vampires are unorganised, out of control and about to be unprotected, so he steps into the darkness to try to stop them killing. George killed someone, scratched Nina by accident and now he has lost his innocence and his love. Nina was turned by George and now can't bear to be with him. It's all come apart in their hands, not because of outside forces but rather because of their own actions. I love that.
While I find the vampire angst in general tedious in the extreme, I am happy to watch Mitchell take on hopeless tasks, such as organising vicious killers into not killing, and trying to date -- I am not sure I buy Mitchell being as completely crap at trying to date as he was here; he seemed quite good at it last series. And I loved his hissy fit about Marigold gloves and bonding in pissiness with George at the BBC moving the times of The Real Hustle
This series, George and Mitchell have carried the main plot burden and Annie has been the light relief. This was true in the early part of last season too, so I am hoping that her story will be foregrounded next week. Something is after Annie, something that has temporarily removed her ability to manifest to anyone other than Mitchell and George, and I want to know what's happening.
She has a lovely relationship with George, alternately cajoling and bullying him into reengaging with the world, but I miss her affectionate partnership with Mitchell and that tentative friendship she had with Nina. And above all, I miss Nina.
As predicted, the werewolf chamber in episode one is going to reappear next week, and Nina will be in it. I may have bitten my jumper in angst when she said her final goodbyes to George, presumably having been promised a cure by Creepy McTombface.
But I yelled out loud at the reveal that the doctor Mitchell had been failing to romance was in fact the professor who was referred to at the end of last season. I thought it was a cheat but on the rewatch there are just enough hints planted previously that it's not a con.
Well played show. Well played.
* * *
I've been doing some reading lately. Yesterday, M finally persuaded me to see Avatar in 3D at the IMAX in Greenwich with him. He said I couldn't possibly appreciate it until I saw it in 3D and bugger me if he wasn't right. It's still stupid and cheesy but lord it's so pretty when it's that big. After that the idea of watching Take Me Out on ITV wasn't very appealing so I read Juliet, Naked, which is Nick Hornby's latest.
Juliet, Naked is basically High Fidelity from the girlfriend's point of view, only the man in it has half the charm and almost none of the ability to mend his ways that Rob has. Annie lives with Duncan, who is obsessed with the singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe, who made several albums culminating in a coruscating break-up album called Juliet, after which he disappeared.
The charmless Duncan is what Annie has settled for. They live in a battered seaside town, and have no children – a fact which bothers Annie. One day someone turns up the early demo tapes for Juliet, and sends a preview CD to Duncan. Overjoyed and intoxicated with the prospect of being the first person to review this first new nugget of information in two decades, he gives it a glowing review. Annie, who is pissed off with both Duncan and the idea that she's wasted 15 years of her life on him, writes exactly the opposite. And then Tucker Crowe writes to Annie, agreeing with her.
Firstly, the aspects of the book I liked. It's incredibly good on the politics of internet fandom. While this is male music fandom, Hornby is good at evoking the batshittery and oneupmanship one sees in any fannish milieu, of the way that BNFs vie with each other and deliver their words from on high. It also makes somewhat uncomfortable reading for anyone who has ever behaved in an obsessively fannish manner, given that Tucker's devotees are seen as creepy and intrusive. There's not much lauding of the fannish sense of community here.
Hornby is also wonderful at undercutting what could have been a soppy romance between Tucker and Annie when they finally meet (Tucker is in ill health and Annie realises that she's behaving like a nagging girlfriend to the man she has a slow-burning crush on). Annie's innate sensibleness makes her very unsuitable to go off having mad affairs with mysterious Americans.
Tucker is a great creation, sarcastic, sometimes irritating, totally feckless and yet charming in a way that evokes a sort of protective instinct. You spend a good part of the book wishing that he could see that he had created something of value in his music. He sees his relationship with his youngest son Jackson as his last chance at a human credential and he's trying to be a better man. The fact that he has written off his other daughters and sons is less delightful.
And yet somehow, despite being about three subjects that are really interesting -- relationships, music, internet fandom -- I was dissatisfied with the book.
Firstly, Nick Hornby writes about Gooleness, which is clearly meant to be some amalgam of Goole and Cleethorpes or similar, with the kind of baffled contempt you get from a lot of southerners who cannot understand why one would ever want to live in the north, when clearly the only possible places you would want to live are North London, New York and Tuscany. His northerners are deeply unconvincing -- there's little of the ready banter, dour humour or sense of fishbowl life you get in such places. Nor is there much sense of place, beyond descriptions of the wind off the North Sea and knackered fish and chip shops. Though Annie works in a museum which is putting on an exhibition about the town's heyday, you don't really get much sense that Hornby has any idea what that heyday would have entailed (though he's not above using it for a bit of pathos every now and then)
I suppose we're meant to think that Duncan lives there so that he is a big fish in a small pond and can swim close to the surface of life there feeling superior to everyone else. However, one also gets the impression that Hornby thinks it's a fate worse than death to be in a small northern town, and certainly a fate that Annie is too good for.
To which I say a hearty fuck off to you and your metropolitan southern snobbery. (albeit one tempered by the fact that I have lived in London for more than 10 years now).
Nor am I altogether fond of his portrayals of other women in this book who are, save for Annie and her friend, as big a bunch of airheads, bitter old cows and harpies as you could wish not to meet. There's an amused pity for the sadsack men, like Duncan or the Northern Soul dancers Gav and Barnesy, but the women are mostly just appalling.
And finally the ending is, according to your preference, majestically open or maddeningly opaque. I fall on the maddeningly opaque side myself. I like the idea of an open ending leaving room for thoughtful personal canon creation, but this barely gives a starting place. It's as though he couldn't be arsed any more and thought "eh, let them make the rest up", as if it were a choose-your-own-adventure book with the last twenty pages ripped out.
I wanted to like it far more than I did.
I don't know if anyone made it this far, but if you did, here is my favourite radio documentary pretty much ever. It is a 1987 (or so) BBC World Service exploration of Ravel's Bolero. It's just members of an orchestra talking about what it's like to play the piece, its history and so on, cut to the actual music. I think it's genius in the editing and I love the way they talk about the piece -- even when it's to say they don't like it and consider it a joke.